A group of scientists have shared the results of a meta-analytic examination of sexualization in video games. They found no evident connection between games and male players’ sexist views or the threat to female players’ mental health.

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The research titled “Does sexualization in video games cause harm in players?” was published in a new issue of Computers in Human Behavior. It was led by Christopher J. Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University.

“I’ve been studying the effects of video games on players for two decades now, most of it on violence,” Ferguson said (via PsyPost). “I think most people have come to accept that there’s no relationship between violent video games and aggression or violent crime (despite some holdouts including the APA).”

However, sexualization in video games is a much less researched field. So the scientists tried to find out whether misrepresentation of female characters may cause any harm to players.

  • Ferguson’s team conducted a meta-analysis of 18 relevant studies to find out whether video games make male players more sexist towards women or whether they make female players experience more body dissatisfaction.
  • 15 of these studies measured sexist attitudes or aggression toward women. 10 studies focused on depression, anxiety, body image, and other outcomes related to sexualized content.
  • The researchers found no statistically significant connection between video games and sexist attitudes or players’ mental well-being.
  • According to Ferguson, a lot of studies contain too much hyperbole and moral outrage instead of real evidence that video games might cause harm to either male or female players.
  • The professor thinks these findings don’t mean that people can’t advocate for better representation of women in video games. They just need to find “reasonable advocacy goals” rather than focusing on “harm” claims.
  • Ferguson also noted that the “higher quality studies were less likely to find evidence for negative effects than lower quality studies.”

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